20 October 2006

Observations on France, Vol. 1

Having been in France for a month and a half I can faithfully declare that I am fully qualified to publish my wholly accurate and immensely insightful observations on said country in no less prestigious a volume than my very own blog. So without even a hint of further ado, my observations on France and the supporting evidence:

1. Some stereotypes are true.
French people eat a lot of baguettes. It's really the only type of bread that they eat on a regular basis. Also, they are bought at the corner bakery which has a line out the door, onto the sidewalk during lunch and dinner time.

The French Government regulates a lot of things. For example, the price and composition of the above-mentioned baguettes. The price is set at 0,85 euros (when writing numbers, the French invert the use of commas and decimals [1.507,24 = 1,507.24]) and there is set recipe. This isn't to say that there is only one type of bread in France, you can pay more for something else, but the price of the standard-issue baguette is set.

French people drive really small cars. After having been here for only a few weeks my sense of scale is all screwed up. I see an Audi A6 and I think it's an A8. I see a Volkswagen Golf and I think it's a minivan. It's really crazy. If you're curious, click here to see the most popular car in Paris, the Renault Twingo.

2. Some stereotypes are not true.
Not everybody walks to the market, buys fresh bread at a quaint bakery and gets their meat from the local butcher. In fact, outside of Paris, life in the suburbs is a lot like life in the US. Case in point, Auchan. It is a grocery store, but it is larger than anything I have ever seen in the US. It's big, like Costco big, but all groceries, no tires, no refrigerators, no caskets. Actually, I didn't take the escalator to the second floor so maybe they had caskets up there. But I digress, the place is huge and has everything at reasonable prices. It's just outside of Paris (nothing of the sort exists inside the city) but accessable by the metro.

The French Government is not always painfully inefficient. I had to have a medical exam to get my residency permit and I was expecting the process to take about an hour. When I arrived at the office 5 minutes before my appointment and saw six people still waiting ahead of me I adjusted the estimate to about 2.5 hours. Lo and behold it turns out that they have a pretty sophisticated system to evaluate the health of new immigrants. We were all processed through at roughly the same time, assembly line-style. We all went to get quick eye exams with one doctor, then off to the chest x-ray, then the medical history and gland examination (roughly like a shoulder massage). 35 minutes later I was walking out the door with three sheets of paper with official stamps (very important in this land) and my provisional work permit. Needless to say, I was surprised.

Since I observe things every day, expect more documented observations in the near future.

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